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ERIC Number: ED513718
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 307
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1095-9730-1
Commodification of Sexual Labor: The Contribution of Internet Communities to Prostitution Reform
Young, Jeffrey R.
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Florida Atlantic University
This is an ethnographic study of a self-regulated Internet site that facilitates illegal female prostitution in South Florida. The purpose is to identify the social and economic characteristics of the site that can contribute to acceptable prostitution reform. The members of the site appear to sustain an orderly and mutually respectful exchange of sexual services for money, suggesting that certain social and economic features of this form of transaction diminish barriers otherwise present in typical forms of contemporary prostitution exchange. The study evaluates the thesis that when commercial sex is conducted in an open atmosphere of respect, trust and mutual understanding, within certain economic parameters, the beliefs and practices that stigmatize prostitutes and prostitution are neutralized. Evidence was generated through extensive observation of an online venue that approximates what prostitution would be like if open market exchange in sexual labor did exist. These data are supplemented by interviews with participants of the online community. Features of mutual respect, trust, and understanding, characteristically absent in traditional prostitution venues, appear to be part of an emerging community phenomenon that facilitates prostitution online. Thus, this study engages with the larger scholarly position that normalization of sex work is necessary for successful prostitution reform. This community utilizes a non-legal enforcement mechanism to facilitate cooperative exchanges based on establishing trust between participants. At the center of the cooperation system is a reputation mechanism that fosters trust between potential partners by encouraging participants to post honest reviews of their encounters with each other. Understanding the social order as a cooperation game where participants publicly signal each other in an attempt to find the most desirable partners explains the mutual trust and respect that participants have for each other. Because stigma and disrespect are founded on mistrust, this cooperation mechanism is effective in minimizing undesirable attitudes, beliefs, and practices that stigmatize and oppress prostitutes. This study suggests that prostitution reform acceptable to many feminists is possible. But in order for meaningful reform to work in practice, it must be accompanied by regulations carefully designed to protect the sexual autonomy of women without stigmatizing prostitutes. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Florida